Literature-Based Unit Studies: Engage Gifted Students for Optimal Learning

Identifying Gifted Students

What does it mean to be gifted? There are many different characteristics that can be identified in a gifted student. Here are a few:

  • They are usually identified by an I.Q. of 140 or more.
  • They learn things quickly with less repetition and with a fierce intensity.
  • They are problem solvers and complex thinkers, looking for answers.
  • They are extremely curious about many different things, and are not afraid to ask questions.
  • They are quick to express their personal beliefs and opinions and are very willing to debate.
  • The gifted student may have a high I.Q. overall, but only excel in certain subject areas. For example, a math prodigy may desire to spend every available hour on math, neglecting other subject areas.

In addition, many gifted students are underachievers who tend to be over-sensitive and socially inept. Gifted students are more than just bright; they are complex students who need special attention in the classroom.

What is a Literature-Based Unit Study?

A literature-based unit study enables the teacher to use a work of literature, whether it be a classic chapter book or a children’s picture book, to teach a variety of subject areas, such as, reading, language arts, science, history, and fine arts. Teaching with literature based unit studies allows you to teach a group of students of various educational levels at the same time, using the same basic lesson plan. The lessons can be easily simplified or expanded to fit the needs of each student.

Teaching Across the Classroom with Literature-Based Unit Studies

There are many literature based unit study guides available from various publishers and on the Internet. Many are written for home schooled students but can be used in the classroom with great success. One such study guide, Five In a Row, is a literature based unit study guide geared towards elementary students, utilizing children’s picture books .

The author, Jane Claire Lambert, has written lessons that cover Applied Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Art, while reading a picture book once a day for five days. You read the book each day, and then follow the reading with learning opportunities, both conversational and concrete. An average student may find and color the story’s geographic origin on a map worksheet while the more advanced student draws the map and writes a report on that geographic area. Learning becomes real and the gifted student has the opportunity to take control of his/her education. The opportunities are endless!

Encouraging Rabbit Trails

Rabbit trails are the result of a natural learning experience. When given a topic, we begin to investigate the topic in many different directions. Occasionally, one of those directions takes us deeper as we desire to internalize the topic. This is true inspired learning. By using Mrs. Lambert’s Five In a Row approach, a teacher can inspire and engage all of her students, including the gifted students, to dig deeper and explore the rabbit trails that inevitably arise while learning in this manner.

The Rewards of Inspired Learning

The rewards of inspired learning are motivated and excited students. Inspired students are better behaved and more eager to participate in class. Using literature based unit studies will teach your gifted students not only how to learn, but how to enjoy the process.